LONDON, July 19, 2017 — The Alzheimer’s Association presented its Inge Grundke-Iqbal Award for Alzheimer’s Research today to Ben Barres, M.D., Ph.D., professor of neurobiology, of developmental biology and of neurology, Stanford University. The Award was presented at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference® 2017 (AAIC® 2017) in London.
Dr. Barres received the award for research advancing the understanding of the novel role the apolipoprotein E (APOE) gene plays in controlling the rate of synapse pruning and turnover in the brain by astrocytes. Specifically, his research found that APOE-e2 enhances the rate of synapse pruning and turnover in the brain while APOE-e4 decreases it.
Dr. Barres and his team further reported that APOE alleles control the rate of accumulation of the complement C1q protein, with APOE-e4 leading to a glut of this protein in the brains of laboratory mice. Dr. Barres and his team hypothesize this excess protein may destroy synapses within the human brain increasing the vulnerability of Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases.
The research builds upon long-standing knowledge that susceptibility to Alzheimer’s is strongly controlled by the APOE gene. The APOE-e4 greatly increases risk whereas the APOE-e2 decreases risk. It is not clear, however, exactly how the APOE allele controls risk for Alzheimer’s. The new research offers another avenue for studying how these two genotypes affect the brain differently.
The significant findings were detailed in a paper, “Novel allele-dependent role for APOE in controlling the rate of synapse pruning by astrocytes,” published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Sept. 2016.
“Given the significance of APOE-e4 and its impact on increased risk for Alzheimer’s disease, Dr. Barres’ and his team’s work is very important,” said Maria C. Carrillo, chief science officer, Alzheimer’s Association. “The work extends the field’s understanding of the complex role APOE plays in Alzheimer’s disease.”
Dr. Barres is former chair of the Department of Neurobiology at Stanford University. He is the creator and director of the Masters of Science in Medicine Program, an intensive program at Stanford University to train Ph.D. students about human biology and disease. He is the co-founder of a startup company, Annexon Biosciences Inc. that is developing new drugs for Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases. Dr. Barres is transgender, a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the National Academies of Science and Medicine, and recently won the Ralph Gerard Prize from the Society for Neuroscience.
Dr. Won-Suk Chung will accept the award on behalf of Dr. Barres at AAIC 2017 and he will present the paper’s findings in a plenary lecture on Wednesday, July 19.
The Inge Grundke-Iqbal Award for Alzheimer’s Research is granted to the senior author of the most impactful study published in Alzheimer’s research during the two calendar years preceding AAIC. The award was created to honor Inge Grundke-Iqbal, Ph.D., who served as professor and head of Neuroimmunology at the New York State Institute for Basic Research in Development Disabilities from 1977 until her passing in September 2012. A world renowned scientist and Alzheimer’s disease researcher, Dr. Grundke-Iqbal made several seminal findings in the biology of Alzheimer’s disease and related conditions, including a landmark discovery that opened a new area of research in neurodegeneration.The Alzheimer’s Association is committed to accelerating the global effort to eliminate Alzheimer’s disease and to recognizing the efforts of researchers who further our understanding about this devastating disease. Since 1982 the Alzheimer's Association has invested over $385 million in more than 2,500 scientific investigations. As the largest nonprofit funder of Alzheimer’s research, our International Research Grant Program is currently investing more than $100 million across 370 best-of-field active projects in 18 countries.
The Alzheimer’s Association International Conference® 2017 (AAIC®) is the largest international meeting dedicated to advancing dementia science. Each year, AAIC unites the world’s leading researchers, next generation investigators, clinicians and the care research community to share discoveries in basic and translational research that will lead to methods of prevention and treatment, and improvements in diagnosis for Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.
AAIC 2017 home page: www.alz.org/aaic/
AAIC 2017 newsroom: www.alz.org/aaic/pressroom.asp